A blessing for families in need
● By Steven Hoffman
Within the next few months, a network of churches throughout southern Chester County will be blessing families in need with a program to alleviate homelessness.
Over the last 25 years, the Family Promise program has been introduced to nearly 200 communities in 41 states across the U.S., and there has been a track record of providing much-needed help to families in crisis. Local church and social service leaders have spent the last fourteen months working to make Family Promise of Southern Chester County a reality. Twenty-five area churches, ranging from the Apostolic Church of Oxford to the Westminster Presbyterian Church on the edge of West Chester, have signed on to alleviate homelessness in southern Chester County by participating as either host or support churches.
The thirteen host churches provide between three and five families—up to 14 individuals at one time—with a place to stay on a rotating basis. Each church will be a host about four times a year, so that there is at least one place for families to turn each week. The host churches provide overnight lodging, from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., while the members of the support churches will help with providing meals, hospitality, and friendship to the families in need. There is also a resource center where families spend the hours between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. This is a place for the guests to shower, care for children who are not in school, and to seek jobs and housing. The resource center provides families with a mailing address and a home base from which to conduct the search for a job or housing. Since the executive director and case managers have offices at the resource center, the families will also have the benefit of a full range of supports during their time in the program. The goal of the program is to get the families back on the path to self-sufficiency.
Even in a comparatively affluent area like southern Chester County, there are still thousands of families who live life on the edge of a financial disaster. In some parts of southern Chester County, the poverty rates exceed 10 percent—Oxford’s poverty rate is 15.7 percent, Kennett’s Square’s poverty rate is 11.1 percent, and the poverty rate in Avondale is 17.6 percent, the highest in the area. During the 2013-2014 school year alone, 494 students in the four southern Chester County school districts were impacted by homelessness.
With faith and fortitude, church and social service leaders are seeking to alleviate homelessness. We wish them well on this very important mission.